Forrester on Overcoming IT Gravity

The world is full of perennial questions. Does the universe have an end? Why do the Hawaiian islands have “interstate” highways? Why hasn’t the CIO risen to a position of prominence in the organization? The answer to that last question, says George Colony writing for Forrester Research, has to do with (drum roll) a lack of affiliation with company money. In other words, not having a hand in revenue generation is prohibitive to gaining prominence.

The Same Old Story

The story of the CIO hasn’t changed much since the dawn of the new millennium:

But now we are entering an era where CIOs must manage two agendas: 1) the internal systems (IT), and 2) the systems, processes, and technologies to win, serve, and retain customers, what we call business technology (BT). As shown, CIOs should be guiding their companies along a path to high IT and high BT — the place where technology will truly move revenue and profit.

The Source of IT Gravity

So we’re back at where we started. When asked if they are serving customers and building a BT agenda, most CIOs will answer the affirmative. But if you look at the actual action items on a CIO’s agenda, you’ll find more or less IT-centric concerns that have little to do with that C word (customer). Colony identifies five forces that collectively amount to what he calls “IT Gravity”:

  1. Timid IT leadership
  2. Company culture
  3. Diverting attention to internal IT
  4. Cyber security
  5. Technology-specific skills

Between a company culture that hasn’t updated its view of IT since the 1990s, and an IT department that never grows tired of its cozy departmental shell, the “gravity” of the situation boils down to a trench-like gridlock that can only be changed if 1) the tech budget retains a 25/75 ratio, with a quarter of all spend towards BT, 2) CXOs spends 15% of meetings discussing technology, and 3) the CIO gets on better terms with the CMO. There’s no easy way to escape IT gravity, but it’s high time for the CIO to be given at least a boost.

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